Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Fifth Dimension of Management: Make It Personal

Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Fifth Dimension of Management: Make It Personal

Article excerpt

The art of management is to get a group of people to work together toward achieving stated goals. Traditional managers discharge their responsibilities through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling or coordinating their employees. In recent decades, however, employee management philosophy and style have changed. According to this view, management is about supporting employees and helping them be fully productive members of the organization.

Owing in large part to advances in technology, present-day employees are more connected and informed than ever before, and traditional management techniques do not always work as well with today's workforce. Some employers have recognized this trend and have shifted the focus from shareholders to employees, based on the idea that happy and empowered employees beget happy customers (1) and improve the bottom line. These employers are paying more attention to the needs of their employees, especially that section of the workforce populated by Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers. (2) They are finding that these needs are significantly different from those of the baby-boomer workforce, and that modern workers disengage easily when their needs are not met.

The majority of employers, especially in the government sector, have not recognized the high cost of disengaged employees. Recent workforce surveys show that in North America, fewer than 1 in 3 employees (29 percent) are fully engaged, and 19 percent are actually disengaged. (3) Gallup has estimated that actively disengaged workers cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year. (4) To succeed, modern managers need to elevate employee engagement to a full-time managerial responsibility on par with planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.


Engaged employees are not just committed or passionate; they have a straight-line vision of their own futures, along with the missions and goals of their organizations. They want their organizations to succeed because they feel connected professionally, emotionally, and even spiritually to the organization's purpose. Managerial methods should create this alignment and connectivity, providing opportunities for participation, clear goals, personal accountability, and relevant feedback.

For example, in planning, employees will not have a sense of ownership in goals that were set by someone else. In organizing, responsibilities must be assigned to specific employees to avoid accountability gaps that will keep the operating plan from being executed properly In leading, if employees do not know how they contribute to the bottom line, they will not follow the leader. In controlling or coordinating, if employees do not get appropriate feedback or recognition on their performance, their work will not add value to the organization.



The auditor-controller and treasurer tax-collector department in Yolo County, California, used several tools to engender employee engagement. These tools, outlined below, are part of the county's management model (see Exhibit 1).

Participatory goal setting. Annual goal setting takes place at all levels of the organization, both as part of the annual budget process and independent of the budget. All department heads and key managers participate in an annual goal-setting retreat, which includes the county administrator and the five members of the board of supervisors. From there, the county sets its annual policy agenda and annual management agenda, which set the tone for the upcoming year. …

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